Scrutiny intensifies regarding VA ‘bonus blunder’

House lawmakers are demanding answers from VA officials, after they approved nearly $11 million in bonuses to ineligible career senior executives.

  • House lawmakers are demanding answers from VA officials, after they approved nearly $11 million in bonuses to ineligible career senior executives. The House VA Committee is calling on the under secretaries of health and benefits to testify at a hearing next week about the “bonus blunder.” The committee also wants to hear from senior HR and legal officials to explain why they didn’t flag these bonuses sooner. VA awarded the bonuses last fall and is still trying to recoup some of the money. Republican senators have called on some VA officials to step down because of the error.
  • Innovation in federal acquisition gets the spotlight in a new report from Office of Management and Budget. Agencies are using an assortment of innovative techniques and technologies to reduce the time to make contracting awards and lower costs for vendors. OMB detailed many of those efforts in a new congressionally-mandated report. In the Acquisition Innovation and Small Business Participation in Federal Procurement report, OMB said many of these tools — such as a market research bot, and hosting remote and interactive capability briefings with vendors to expand the field of bidders — have expanded opportunities for small businesses, including new entrants into the federal sector. OMB said agencies have been collecting and sharing these new approaches in the Periodic Table of Acquisition Innovations, which highlights 29 use cases that could help agencies increase speed, improve accuracy, reduce administrative cost, and lower risk across the acquisition lifecycle.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is developing new physical security goals for critical infrastructure. CISA’s physical security goals come amid rising threats to the electric grid and other critical infrastructure. CISA is raising awareness about good security practices as it prepares for national safety month in June. “It’s time for us to focus on how we keep working environments safe and free from danger,” CISA Executive Assistant Director for Infrastructure Security David Mussington said. “When it comes to running workplace safety, planning is central to what we need to do to avoid foreseeable and unforeseeable risks.”
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is driving down wait times for veterans to receive health care. The Veterans Health Administration in April saw an 11% decrease in average wait times for new patients in VA primary care, compared to last year. It also saw a 7% decrease in average mental health wait times. Under Secretary for Health Shereef Elnahal said these improved metrics come at a time when VA is delivering more care and more benefits to veterans than ever before. "We've been able to meet that increasing demand for care, all while we're seeing greater demand from our existing base of veterans, as they get older and get more chronic conditions and need more care," Elnahal said.
  • Federal agencies are preparing for a busy hurricane season. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has opened up a new distribution center in Pennsylvania to ensure supplies can be deployed more quickly along the East Coast. FEMA is also updating its contingency contracts to support rapid response and recovery operations. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said there is an 85% chance of above-normal hurricane activity in the Atlantic this year. NOAA is forecasting the potential for eight to 13 hurricane-strength storms. The hurricane season in the Atlantic runs from June 1 to November 30.
  • African American men and women interested in working for the FBI will have a better opportunity to understand what it takes to join the bureau. A new memorandum of understanding between the FBI and the Blacks In Government (BIG) Future Leaders in America’s Government (FLAG), or the BIG FLAG program, will expand the collaboration and information sharing between the two organizations. The FBI will do more to share details about the variety of internships and programs open to college students, as well as hiring opportunities for seniors and recent graduates.  The members of the BIG FLAG program will have access to webinars focused on the FBI’s mission, awareness information, hiring and application processes.
  • The Government Accountability Office is once again a Best Place to Work in the 2023 rankings from the Partnership for Public Service. This time around, U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro credits the agency's high score in part to its telework practices. GAO has been working with its union over the last year to implement a generous work-from-home policy. Many GAO employees are allowed to work fully remotely, and others can telework up to four days a week. GAO has maintained its spot as the number one midsize agency in the Best Places to Work rankings for four years in a row.
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is back on the job after briefly relinquishing his duties over the weekend. The Pentagon said Austin transferred his authority to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks for a few hours on Friday night while he underwent a medical procedure at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. This time, Congress and the White House were notified in advance, and Defense officials said there were not any complications. Austin came under fire in December after a separate health issue sidelined him for two weeks. In that case, lawmakers, the White House and the public were not notified that the secretary was in the hospital until complications emerged. After that, Austin and DoD promised to change the department’s transfer-of-authority procedures and make them more transparent.


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